iPad App Review: Slamjet Stadium

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The first major iOS game from indie developer Alistair Aitcheson, Greedy Bankers, is a cracking puzzle game which took the tired concept of matching different coloured gems up to score points and turned it into something enjoyably different. However, it wasn’t until the iPad sequel, Greedy Bankers vs The World that we got to see his knack for creating classic local multiplayer games; a rare skill these days, with most multiplayer games being played online.

Before online gaming, multiplayer games were all played with a real life friend, and although they could occasionally lead to a falling out, were considerably more personal and interactive. Greedy Bankers vs. The World harked back to those days, and some game-legal cheating injected into the competitive multiplayer format gave it a real edge. Now, Aitcheson is back with Slamjet Stadium, an iPad-only sports title which combines both a single player and multiplayer mode. Can it challenge the brilliance of Bankers?

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Best described as Speedball with an Angry Birds-style control mechanic, the game is set in the far future, where football has evolved to be played by teams of two people on hoverbikes, knocking a ball around a tight playing field. The object is to score goals against the opposing team, and in most matches it’s the first to reach three. However, instead of players being able to freely roam around the pitch, they can only launch themselves in one direction at a time. The rest of the time, they float about waiting to be hit by another player or crash into a wall or obstacle.

Here’s where the Angry Birds connection comes in, as you don’t track your players around the screen; instead you tap, pull back and let go to propel them into the distance, just like using the catapult in Angry Birds. It’s an unusual method of control and takes a while to get used to, particularly as most of the time your player is in motion while you’re trying to aim. The pitch is small and the players are quite large, so the action is usually condensed into a small space, making it incredibly frenzied at times. In turn, this makes own goals as easy to score as ones against the opposing team, plus by the time you’ve lined your player up to take a shot, everything has often changed, forcing you to rethink your strategy.

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It’s not frustrating though, and the feel for how far you’re going to shoot your player is perfect. The temptation to launch them off at full power is usually too much to resist, but by thinking about positioning – especially when a goal has been scored and you’re waiting for a new ball to appear – goals can be set up and scored very quickly indeed. Hanging around isn’t always a good idea, as in the centre of the pitch is a button which will offer a special bonus, which may help or hinder you, and it’s available to both teams. These range from a gale which blows everything in one direction, frozen players, explosive mines and multi-balls. The more you’re out there, the more these come into play.

Not only that, the stadium is out to make things difficult too, as some come with massive pinball-style bumpers which ping you around the screen – and are very annoying – or jets of fire ready to roast you. All of this, of course, is going on while you’re trying to score a goal and prevent your opponent from doing the same. It’s genuinely exciting to play, with a real sense of triumph or defeat at the end of a fraught match. And all that’s before we get into the multiplayer mode.

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The game is essentially the same and as with Bankers, bending the rules is encouraged. Here, the button in the centre of the field becomes more important, as in the height of battle, it’s easy to press it only to find out it’ll negatively affect you. It’s also fun to ram your opponent’s players out of the way, then swoop in and grab a goal while they’re desperately trying to reposition. Playing Slamjet Stadium multi-player is a finger twisting, arm bending pleasure, and it’s easily as much fun as Greedy Bankers vs The World. And that makes it very good indeed.

Thankfully, if you don’t have a like-minded friend handy, the single player game is nearly as much fun. It’s not a very long campaign though, and the teams don’t really vary aside from their names, plus the plot – something about dinosaurs wanting the grand prize money to fund a nefarious plot – is entirely superfluous. Not that any of these tiny issues matter as we think Slamjet Stadium is a must-buy for fans of frantic, action-packed sports games with a killer multi-player mode for when you’ve got company.

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